Category Archives: Ottawa

The Collective Benefits of Ending Homelessness 2

December 2011 I posted “the Collective Benefits of Ending Homelessness”, since then, over 5 years, there have been 500+ clicks to see the post. Five plus years later, it is time for an update. In those five years the conversation has shifted, it has moved from talking about ending homelessness to having available affordable housing, in essence the conversation could now be the “Collective Benefits of Affordable Housing”.

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Back in 2011 I wrote about the then Federal Conservative Government plans to reduce homelessness by finding and funding places for people to get off the streets and under a roof. Was it the right approach? Where does the search to end homelessness begin? Is this is a chicken or the egg situation? What is the right beginning, to create new housing to move people to a house from a room or fund shelter spaces to move people off the street? Whatever the solution, it helps the circle of movement move faster and more efficiently (one hopes).

Since the 2012 report from the Ottawa Alliance to End Homelessness (ATEH) there has been an increase in the number of people accessing homeless spaces. The 2016 report (http://endhomelessnessottawa.ca/resources/2016-progress-report-on-ending-homelessness/) shows that 7170 individuals used a shelter of some sort, not since 2012 have over 7000 people sought a shelter for the night. There is some indication that the federal plan of 2011 has had a positive impact as numbers dropped to 6508 in 2014, but that number has been slowly creeping back up to the numbers released recently by the ATEH.

Why isn’t the needle moving in a positive direction on this? What is hold us back?

With a 10 year commitment from the City of Ottawa to reduce homelessness in its 4th year, there remains a concern that the needs are not being met – and that the reasons for it are changing. Affordability is becoming more and more the reason for not having a permanent home. Youth are couch surfing and families are moving into smaller homes as the cost of rent and everyday needs (like hydro) increase without solid solutions to reduce or stabilize the cost of staying in a home. In 2012 it was estimated that 1000 new housing units were needed annually in Ottawa to meet, reduce and eliminate homelessness. In five years the City of Ottawa has created just under 1300. Based what the ATEH estimated, the Ottawa is 3700 units behind its needs.

It is clear to me each new government has its own ideas for solutions to ending homeless and in 2017 we see affordability becoming a huge issue as the cost to purchase a home rises annually. The Liberals in Ottawa announced $11B over 11 years as part of National housing strategy, but that money is being spread over several initiatives – the $11B sounds like an incredible figure and it is. But on an annual basis the figures do not seem as impressive. As an example, the $3.2B in the Renewed Federal-Provincial-territorial Partnership for seniors housing over 11 years is less than $300M each year.

The $11B is a good first step nationally, but for the 10,000+ on the Ottawa housing wait list it will take years to build those roofs and walls and eventually end homelessness in Ottawa and other communities across Canada. What needs to be addressed is how governments can help the unknown those families, youth and individuals who are not on wait list, we don’t know where they are today or where they will be tonight.

I have hopes that by distributing the $11B through the CMHC it will be a much more effective and efficient flow of funding rather than previously when the money flowed through three different government hands before it got to the providers and builders of affordable housing. One positive out of the 2017 budget is that it should reduce the reporting structure for how the money used while this funding is available over 11 years.

2017 and 2018 will see several Municipal and Provincial elections held, for the social and affordable housing sectors these will be important to hold governments to account for a lack of progress and to ensure incoming governments and councils will take actions that will see less use of shelters as more rooms, apartments and houses for youth, seniors and families will be ready with doors wide open for them.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Happy Cannabis Day

Pot FlagThe Trudeau Liberals checked off another box today from their 2015 election promises. Legislation was introduced to legalize the use of recreational marijuana.

In this bill, Trudeau is sitting pretty atop the pyramid of responsibility, he has the least to lose and the least to pay for an issue that in the Provincial Elections of 2011 and 2014 was not raised. Even during my short time campaigning municipally in 2010, this was not an election concern. In the federal campaigns of 2011 and 2015, I don’t recall legal marijuana being listed as a top concern in Ottawa Centre and other ridings, whether it was in Toronto or Ottawa that I helped a candidate in.

While the Liberals have the greatest to gain and the least to lose it’s the two lower tiers that will have to work the hardest to make the legislation work. This is legislation that as far as I can tell was not top of the page in Queens Park, Ottawa or Toronto City Hall or any other provincial legislature. As the responsibility drops, there’s more to lose. The cost of enforcement falls to municipal and provincial police forces; the provincial justice system has to try the cases. Distribution will flow through individual provincial manners much like alcohol and with different provincial policies for health and healthcare it just gets messier.

If the federal government really wanted to take control of legal pot – they could do it all alone using federal institutions that are currently in place. Let’s leave the Provinces and Municipalities out of it. It’s not unrealistic to think that the federal government could do this all on their own, with few exceptions.

Growth and production regulations for of cannabis and cannabis products would fall under the Health Canada, while the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would team up with Agriculture Canada to regulate the growth, collection and inspection of the efficacy and safety of the product going out to Canadians. Health Canada would be responsible for education on the use of pot and the awareness of its use’s effects.

The federal government can rely on Canada Post for distribution of the marijuana to customers, either through mail or in Canada Post outlets. This eliminates the need and legality of others owning the pot dispensaries.

Enforcement falls in to the laps of RCMP; the CBSA could be expanded to include the law’s enforcement and on federal lands (parks and Parliament Hill) wardens and Parliamentary Police Forces would pitch in. In some other cases other levels of policing could be contracted and invoice the federal government when arrests are made. These policing costs would merely be a line item in the larger legal marijuana budget. Criminal cases would be tried solely in federal courts and convictions to be served in federal penitentiaries.

The same concept works for the treatment of cases for marijuana related ambulatory trips to the ER’s, stays in hospitals etc., Provinces can bill the federal government and receive payment through healthcare transfers.

Through all of this, the beauty is that the federal government keeps all the money; there would be no need to share any of the revenue from the sale of the marijuana.

Does this scenario make it more difficult for people who want to smoke it get it? Maybe, but that’s not my issue, more importantly though it makes it simpler to know who is supposed to do what.  It would all fall on the federal government – no one to blame (or praise) for the success or failure of legalizing pot goes to any other level of government.

The bottom line is this; it’s easy to come up with an idea and tell someone else to take care of it. But courage is to take ownership, 100% ownership. In a 2017 Trudeau world, there is no room to take 100% ownership of any problem, there is always someone else.

Now what can we do to move the date of legalization away, far away from Canada Day?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

The Trudeau Revolution

 

18 months into the mandate, we are well into the Trudeau Revolution. We should have sensed a bit of this with the Prime Minister’s public admiration of Chinese ‘democracy’ and Cuba’s Fidel Castro. There were little wee signs of it from the beginning, perhaps to put a gloss over it all – but we are now into a full blown revolution that will change the shape of Canada.

After years of Conservatives and Liberals watching money and working towards a balanced budget after the First Prime Minister Trudeau. The 2nd Prime Minister Trudeau is determined to take us down the road a second time. The Trudeau Revolution has blown up the bank, in 2019 after the full four years of a Trudeau mandate 5 years of Trudeau budgets deficits will be $142B and the Federal Debt will be $755B. A debt of $1Trillion is in our sights and you might want to look away but when you look back it’s in the rear view mirror and it is approaching fast. While being handed a balanced budget in 2015, the Trudeau Revolution is now primed to have Canada having to work and wait for its next balanced budget until 2055.

But the Trudeau Revolution doesn’t stop at the dollar and the deficit.

The government has tried once to push a parliamentary procedure through, Motion 6 was introduced last May.   Motion 6 was designed to limit opposition debate and let a Minister of the government determine when a debate would end. It was withdrawn following protests from opposition parties and the battering the government took during Question Period on the motion.

From the ashes of the withdrawn Motion 6 has come, from Government House Bardish Chagger, her ‘thoughts’ on the modernization of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons – the rules on which Parliament operates. Billed by the House Leader as a discussion paper and left at that for now it would have been fine. What made this document part of the revolution was the motion in the House Affairs Procedure Committee from Liberal MP Scott Simms to have the committee study the paper and come back with which recommendations on what to present to the House to implement.

At the heart of the issue is a government that wants to use its majority to push through procedural changes, when as a majority it has the power to get its legislation passed. With the changes to the Standing Orders, now the government wants to be able to do that, with less interference from the opposition parties.

This is not the first time in the short history of the Trudeau government this has happened. Remember Electoral reform? At first the Bloc Quebecois and Green Party’s would not be represented on the special committee on Electoral reform, then they were. Then the Electoral Reform report came out and because it didn’t reflect the view of the Liberal’s then Minister Monsef stated that the committee had not done “the heavy lifting’. Translated, it meant that the committee did not unanimously endorse a ranked ballot system. What the majority of the committee did endorse was a proportional system that was still to be determined. The Liberals scrapped electoral reform saying Canadians no longer had an appetite for changes in how we votes, many voters cast their ballots for the Trudeau Revolution because of electoral reform promises.

The government now has this to worry about. The House Affairs Committee has been filibustering since MP Simms introduced the motion to study and report back. The filibustering was one reason for the delay in the release of the Budget by Minister Morneau. Other points of order (which take precedent over everything in the House of Commons) were raised that caused further delay including the distribution of copies of the Budget to Liberal MPs before the Minister started reading his budget speech. Liberal MPs were seen taking and posting photos of the budget and the opposition filibustering in the house, things that are not allowed.

The filibustering in committee will continue on April 3rd when the House returns from a constituency.

To be transparent the changes in Standing Orders cover how MP vote in the House, to how committees work the more controversial of having a Prime Minister’s Question Period once a week (the other days he can sleep in) and eliminating Friday sittings of the House.

Beyond Standing Orders, the Trudeau Revolution will also include the recently announced legalization of Marijuana. How deep the revolution goes is yet to be seen, but it is clear that like his father Trudeau 2.0 means to leave a deep stamp on Canada for better or for worse.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

The first shot has been fired

Ottawa Votes

I had noticed while reviewing the activity of this blog that yesterday my post about the 2014 Ottawa elections was viewed. In that post I gave predictions on 9 councillor races in that year’s municipal elections. I wrote that 8 of the nine wards I looked at were in a strong position to change. I was wrong in all predictions as the incumbent won all the 8 seats I thought would see a turn over.  But it didn’t stop me from thinking about what might happen in 2018.


Mayor Jim Watson announced that he was seeking another term as Mayor in the 2018 Ottawa Municipal elections.  It was the first shot fired, meant to warn off challengers?  When he made the announcement he wrote:

“Our city is in the midst of its most significant transformation in a generation, and with the support of the people of Ottawa, I hope to continue to play a small part in our beautiful city’s bright future.”

It makes sense that he run again, the LRT is his baby, by the time a potential next term ends in 2022 Phase 1 will be up and running, Phase 2 of the LRT will be close to completion and he will likely have passed Phase 3 at council. It just makes sense that in order to have the LRT as his legacy he try for a third consecutive term (and 4th term overall) as Mayor to guide it through construction and implementation. Whether he can remove the idea that his tax increase limitations are creating more debt and deficit for the City is yet to be seen as there is a contingent of voters that don’t believe that Ottawa can afford to carry an increased debt.

His re-election is not a slam dunk even with one of the highest approval ratings of all big city Mayors in Canada, his approval sits in the high 70’s percentage. There have been less optimistic and less publicized polls show that he faces some real challenges including increased water fees, sewer rates (all because he limits property taxes to 2% or less), better snow removal budgeting and to loosen the handcuffs of Councillors at budget time.

When he announced his intention to run on March 9th, it may have made a few intentions of other potential candidates sag.

So, who could be in and who could be out of the Mayor’s race with this announcement?

Possible candidates to jump in include, Paul Dewar former Ottawa Centre MP. We have a Father-Son as Prime Minister so why not a Mother-Son Mayor of Ottawa? The only thing holding him back is whether he anticipates that the shine is off the Trudeau Liberals and he can win his seat back. You have to remember, he did not lose any votes in 2015, the Liberals gains were from ‘new’ voters, which was the margin of victory for Catherine McKenna. Voters disenchanted with broken Liberal promises will help Dewar in 2019 and he very likely could win the seat back as he will be able to out canvass Catherine McKenna for 2019 as she did against him for the win in 2015.

Diane Deans, who will have 23 years on City council, has Mayoral aspirations, you can sense it. But the timing has never been great. With Watson in for another run is the timing still off? She has been building on having a different view of Ottawa than Watson envisions in her debates in Council, 2018 could be the year that she is also all in.

Likely NOT seeking to run against Jim Watson are Councillors Mark Taylor and Tim Tierney; both are loyal to the Mayor. Taylor may not be around in 2018 if he seeks to run in the 2018 Provincial election in Ottawa West Nepean replacing Bob Chiarelli as the Liberal Candidate. This seems the most likely plan for Taylor as he plans to keep his promise to be a two term Councillor. Tierney also made the two term pledge, but suggested in 2014 that the voters should determine if a councillor is elected for more than two terms, however I do not see him running against his friend.

Senior councillors, Rick Chiarelli (18 years), Marianne Wilkinson (40+ years with Kanata and Ottawa) and Jan Harder (21 Years with Nepean and Ottawa) may be challenged by supporters to make the jump to run for mayor. Even though the Mayor has declared he’s “in”, I do not expect to see anyone else put their name forward until early 2018.

I do not doubt Watson’s sincerity about running again, but he really had no choice BUT to say he was seeking re-election. He was being asked ( I think unfairly as he is only half way through his term), to say he would not run might have labelled him a lame duck Mayor and then noting would be accomplished and council might seem like a Mayoral debate every time they sat. But then again, something better could come along before he has to file his papers.- just sayin’.

Something else to watch leading up to the 2018 election is if Council will adopt ranked ballots for the vote. A City staff report on the changes that are now allowed due to a change in Provincial legislation suggests that moving to a ranked ballot would cost $3.5M more and would have challenges with ‘respect to awareness, technology and election administration.’ Time is also a concern to implement changes for 2018, but staff does not discount making changes in future elections.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

The Grand Rebirth

100-wellington-street-former-us-embassy-united-states

The grand ole lady has great bones, fabulous sight lines and is currently the most eligible address in the Parliamentary Precinct.

Last fall Liz and I took a tour of the old U.S. Embassy. It has been empty since the bunker on Sussex St opened in 1998 and US embassy staff moved in. Since then, there has been enough debate of what lies ahead for the 1932 constructed building. Over the course of a few weeks the doors were open and the people went through the stripped down main and second floors. Even though much had been removed and almost 20 years of neglect had done its damage, you could clearly see the potential and past beauty that once was in place.

Walking through the building you could feel the history and grandeur that once existed.  We lucked out, and our interest caught the attention of one of the Project Managers that day after asking some questions,  we were led behind the ropes into rooms that were not available for the open house.  In the rooms you sense that the walls are just waiting for the moment that restoration begins.  Filled with the natural light of the large windows the rooms require little in additional illumination.  The view of Parliament from what must have been the Ambassador`s office is breathtaking, and any weather, sun or snow would not diminish it.  For a Canadian catching the same views when the building is open again, it will be of the same magnitude of seeing the first fireworks that appear from behind the Peace Tower on Canada Day or making a turn and getting that first glimpse or spray of Niagara Falls or looking up from street level to view the CN Tower.  The significance of the view will not be lost.

The debate of what to do with the building was left to the fate of an online survey, completed after you finished touring the building on tablets on site or at home online. Walking through the building you could  imagine any number of events taking place in any of the rooms,  a wedding, an art show, a live art performance,  a public presentation or an special awards evening.

Fast forward a few months and the survey says…

…based on the responses from 6500 people, the top three suggested uses are:

  • Canada House, for a taste our our diversity
  • A gallery hosting art of national significance
  • An indigeneous centre, highlighting the culture, acheivements and the prominent role of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples

There were other options but these are the main contenders…or the building could house all three, rotating as needed.

The building,  valued in the ten’s of millions will likely require much more than that for the renovations and building upgrades to turn the building into whatever the government and its project managers decide. It is clear that Canadians have been waiting for the most eligible address in Ottawa to have a new tenant since the Americans moved out. Previous governments had seduced us with plans for a National portrait gallery until the Harper government shelved any plans plans for 100 Wellington.

An announcemnt is expected in “early” 2017. What early means to the government remains to be seen, though considering that it will likely require budget considerations we could hear by March what Trudeau’s plans are.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com for what I see, hear and read.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Sanctuary! Sanctuary?

sanctuary-city

A funny thing has happened since November 8, 2016 (Election Day in the United States); people feel the need to defend values in Canada because they feel similar values in the US are being attacked by the new administration. There is a reaction revolution happening in Canada. Protests against the President are taking place; protests are taking place against the decisions being made in the American capital. Funny thing though, Donald trump is not our President, heck, he isn’t even our Prime Minister. Yet Canadians are taking to the street to protest his actions. Likely though, Canadians are just trying to let our Municipal, Provincial and Federal governments know how they feel about the 45th American President.

I found that there are 17 sanctuary cities in the US; the largest are New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago. In Canada, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and London ON are sanctuary cities. London being the newest, as the city council voted in 2017 to become a sanctuary city. But – do we need to have sanctuary cities here in Canada? Hasn’t Canada always been a welcoming country – taking in thousands from areas of the world afflicted with political uncertainty and upheaval?

What does it mean to be a sanctuary city? The designation of being a “Sanctuary City” ensures that people without legal documentation will have access to services they require. The designation also means that illegal immigrants would not be sent back to their home country if they were discovered.

This past week in Ottawa, Somerset Ward Councillor Catherine McKenney indicated she wants to make Ottawa a sanctuary city. A motion to council was expected this week (February 8th), but McKenney held the motion back and hopes to have Ottawa council vote to be a designated sanctuary city in the spring.

The idea of sanctuary goes back over 800 years to the 12th Century in England where fugitives, when they crossed the threshold of a church, the community would be legally required to feed and house the fugitives for up to forty days. I am sure we all at one point have seen a movie where someone is running into a church demanding “sanctuary”. Oh…and after 40 days, the fugitive had to confess his crime, give up everything they owned and walk barefoot to the nearest port and live in exile for the rest of their lives. Sanctuary has evolved since the days of King Henry III.

Back to Ottawa. Ottawa has a very generous history of accepting those from other countries recently; Syrians have found a home on our city as have Vietnamese boat people in the late 1970’s. Ottawans have continuously opened their doors and hearts to help others. Ottawa is now a vibrant multi-cultural community as Iraqi’s, Iranians, Somalians, Congolese and Afghans among others have come to Ottawa to live following political unrest and violence in their home country.

Ottawa, and Canada have accepted the many from the around the world – and in Ottawa’s case, they have had little if any documentation – they have been refugees. This has been done and we have welcomed many without the designation of being a sanctuary city.

So, do we need to have that designation? Conservative or Liberal federal governments have always accepted an open door policy to refugees, this is what Canada is.

Are Canadians and specifically, Canadian politicians allowing President Trump to dictate our laws and regulations? We didn’t expect NO political fallout from a Trump Presidency, but to have one man and his administration have such an effect is surely an overreaction. Canada has survived ‘cool’ relationships with the Americans in the past – what evidence is there where we expect that we won’t get through the next four years, or eight with Trump? It’s not like he can rule as Prime Ministers have for 10-15-20 years.

Are demands for sanctuary cities nothing more than a reaction,  a shield, a need for protection a need to define LOUDLY our Canadian Values?

Do Canadians lose when we feel the need to ‘bulk up’ against someone who has such different values than us? Shouldn’t sanctuary be something we want as a proactive step rather than a reactive move against one person?

If becoming a sanctuary city was such a good idea, why haven’t we discussed this earlier? Why do we need to wait for one person to cause this to happen. If we haven’t needed this is the past, why do we need it now?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com for what I see, hear and read.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

 

A Cap ‘n Trade happy ending

happy-endingsDISCLAIMER: I am not a climate change denier, I have been on the earth long enough to know that our climate is changing and that everyone must do something so that when Canada celebrates 250 years our great great grandchildren will have a just as great country as we did 100 years previous. But, I am also aware that wages are not increasing in the private sector as fast as taxes are going up and being introduced. The end of being able to fund EVERYTHING the government wants/needs to do is coming.

Somehow I got an email from a company that was announcing its purchase of Cap and Trade credit, I do not know how they had my email address but that is beside the point here. An Ottawa area real estate team annouced that they had figured our their carbon footprint and purchased carbon credits to offset the carbon they create/use each year.

My first reaction was great – thank you for recognizing your environmental impact. My second was, you have a new cost and now you are going to pass it on your clients? On top of that in the email, there were suggestions on how to reduce our individual carbon footprint like using LED bulbs, lowering our thermostats when we’re not home, using cloth or reusable grocery bags an fill our green, black and blue bins for recycling.

Did the writer of this email think that we weren’t already doing those things? People are doubling up sweaters when they are home to reduce electricity consumption to stay warm. Many have to decide do I heat or do I eat? I asked the company to talk to the government and let them know that consumers are reaching the end, the disposable incomes of Canadians are thinning out because of the passed on costs of taxes and carbon credits to consumers.

They Real Estate company probably don’t expect any replies, but I decided I should ask a few questions on their decision to purchase Carbon Credits. How many did they buy? How much did they pay? Will they be passing the cost of their purchase onto their clients? Are they aware that by passing on the cost, they are adding to the cost of homes in Ontario making it more difficult for first time buyers and families that need a new home to replace the once they have grown out of?

I was not expecting a reply, but I received one the next day. in the email I was told:

“…as a company (we) decided to take this initiative on and fund the costs of doing so without passing them on to clients.”  

Further more they wrote when I asked why they were doing this at a time when cap and trade is going to cost consumers more, they wrote:

“My belief is organizations and individuals should all look at doing this for themselves and that means paying for it themselves not passing it down the line.”

So, kudos to them, I applaud their stance that believing that they alone were responsible for their carbon footprint and that they alone should pay for it.

Kudos to the Adam Mills Real Estate Team in Ottawa for taking a stand for consumers. They won’t get much press for doing what they did, but I hope that word sneaks out and that they have set the bar high for others to follow. That the government will be adding a Carbon Tax line to our hydro costs is expected – that one company in Ottawa has decided NOT to is unexpected.

I hope others WILL take note and follow their lead.

I am not in the market for a new home, but if I were they would be getting a call from me.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com for what I see, hear and read.

I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker & @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.